710 Freeway Extension Saga Comes to an End

Decades-long battle ends with final Environmental Impact Report, as regional cities face new spending questions

Published : Thursday, November 29, 2018 | 6:36 AM

At a press conference in Arlington Garden Wednesday, California Secretary of Transportation Brian Annis and State Senator Anthony Portantino presented the signed final Environmental Impact Report for 710 Freeway extension which formally adopts a local street improvement alternative to the multibillion-dollar eight-lane tunnel proposed 15 years ago.

“This is the finish line,” said an exuberant State Senator Anthony Portantino, who represents Pasadena.

“Today, we say goodnight to the 710 tunnel and we turn on the lights to local transportation solutions,” Portantino said at the announcement, backed by mayors of local cities and state and County officials. “I’m ecstatic that the EIR was finally signed bringing closure to this six-decade 710 fight.”

Secretary Annis said that the completion of the EIR will allow important local road and transit improvements to move forward, as well as speed up the sales of Caltrans properties along the now-abandoned 710 route.

With the certification of the final Environmental Impact Report, leaders of the six cities involved in the battle will turn their energies to spending the hundreds of millions in re-allocated 710 funds on individual local community transportation projects.

But a new and different battle may be brewing.

Pasadena Mayor Terry Tornek, who has been long opposed to any 710 extension, voiced his own fears that new funding for local transportation projects might spawn a new series of battles.

“We are really getting ready for the next round of squabbling and conflict,” he told the gathered audience.

“We’re just warming up,” said Tornek, “because the money that had been allocated for this project is now being reallocated, and there’ll be a whole new round of conflict and public discussion, and acrimony surrounding how that should be spent.”

Tornek concluded that in the end many new projects will be agreed upon and approved and implemented which will “deliver significant benefits, transportation benefits and environmental benefits, to the people of this region — and it’ll happen in our lifetime.”

“What was really happening with the 710, I think, is that it was this ominous cloud that really blocked the sun, in terms of being able to make progress on a whole host of projects that communities had been wanting to implement and make happen.”

The end of the 710 extension project could also mean some type of new development to replace the “stub” at the California Avenue end of the 210 Freeway, which has long been considered an eyesore and is currently being used as a temporary quarry by Caltrans.

The Pasadena “stub” and the oft-controversial sales of the Caltrans homes hit home with activist and preservationist Claire Bogaard, who worked for many years against the 710 extension.

“My personal goal,” Bogaard said after the press conference, “is to get these houses sold and I’m hoping that Caltrans will really move into action because there’s going to be, a lot of work is going to be needed. Then as the houses are sold, then…there will be revenues, and those revenues can be used for the rehab of other homes and or eventually go into whatever funds are set up to accept them.”

Sue Mossman, Executive Director of Pasadena Heritage, echoed Bogaard’s comments, saying, “I think our first focus is to make sure the historic homes are properly protected as they are sold. And we’re here to help and we’re here to advise, and we’re here to cause trouble if that’s what it takes.”

“But,” she continued, “The great separation could impact historic buildings, the stub could impact Old Pasadena and other historic places, but first we’re going to focus on the houses because I think that may happen quickly.”

Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who said the fight over the 710 existed before she was born, told the audience, “We have managed to bring the cities together for one reason and that is recognizing the greater good for this region. The greater good for this region is we need to fix the problem now. The debate on the tunnel has gone on, but we need to make immediate exits. Next week, the MTA will be looking at and addressing that moving forward and allocating funds and the resources necessary to explore and provide regional transportation alternatives to the tunnel.”

“We have to work together,” said Barger, with an eye on future plans. “Things as simple as signal synchronization can have a major impact on the region. Things like the changing the At Grade at California and the Arroyo Parkway on the Gold Line, will have a significant impact on transportation.”

“This is going to be an exciting time, so stay tuned,” Barger said. “Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be fun and wild ride.”

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